I was recently listening to a podcast on writing in which the interviewee, a female entrepreneur/blogger, shared an opinion on writing that I found interesting.
I won’t say who the gal was.
Yes I will.
No. I won’t.
But I will repeat what she said, which was: “[to get better at writing], I do anything but write. Um, because, writing more is great and writing more will come with time, but forcing yourself to write? I don’t think – regardless of what all these “national novel writing contests” and whatthefuckever they say… forcing yourself to write when you’re not there? It’s gonna make you hate writing.”
Um, or not.
Thinking about it on the train later, I wrote a response to that oh-so-insightful woman. I handwrote it, because it came to me suddenly and I simply didn’t have the time or patience to pull out and boot up my laptop. And my opinion on her opinion, scribbled hastily on the last page of a notebook, was effectively: “bullshit.”
Because I did one of those “national novel writing contests.” In fact, I doubled down and did it again. I wrote two novels – plus another 30,000 words – in one month. And I did all of this while working full time.
I did not do it because I felt compelled to. And I did not “force” myself to write. I started nanowrimo because the concept lit a spark in me. And I kept doing it because that spark ignited a forest fire – the size of something that now consumes the majority of my leisure time. Once I started, I just kept right on going. And I love it. L-O-V-E it.
And so you, Missy, got the emotion about it all wrong.
Because if writing a lot means that you have to always force yourself to write, something is wrong.
If writing a lot is that painful, something is wrong.
And if writing makes you hate writing, then something is wrong.
Maybe you are not doing it right.
Or – maybe – writing is just not quite your sweet spot.
And I’m sorry that you hated the process of writing your book – (which she did) – but maybe the issue is you, and not the writing.
Because I’m pretty sure that if you really love something and you are meant for it, doing it would not make you hate doing it.
For a writer, the whole process of writing should open up your mind and your heart to everything you have always wanted to say. Even if you are writing a lot. And you shouldn’t have to force the whole process. It should more or less happen hate-free.
National Novel Writing Month isn’t intended to be hated. It’s intended to get your ass into gear and help you achieve a goal you would otherwise keep putting off. It only adds framework.
It’s like training for a marathon. Running every day may not always be somuchfun – and there may be times you have to push through it – but at the end of it all, the process certainly should not make you hate running. And if it does – if running makes you hate running – then, hey, here’s a suggestion: maybe you are not supposed to be a runner!
I know that I’m not – meant to be a runner, that is. I do hate running. So I don’t do it. And I definitely don’t train for marathons. This also means that I most certainly do not attempt to train for a marathon, have a crappy experience, hate the whole process, and then go around telling other people not to try to train for a marathon because they, too, will undoubtedly “hate it.”
(That’s not my place. And that would be total bullshit. Don’t you agree?)
But, while I hate running, I do not hate writing. So I do it. And now I do it a lot.
For years, I only wrote sporadically. But three months after nanowrimo, I now write 3,000-ish words every day. Because, again, once I got started, I just keep right on going… and that does not mean that there are not “soft spots” in the middle or points where, for a few minutes, I have to urge myself to keep going – moments in which I suffer from “writer’s cramp” or a “writing Charley horse” or whatever else – but I push through it and, oftentimes, I end up writing more than I “had to.”
I write a lot.
And now the word count is there only as a metric – as a way of communicating effectively with others, since saying that I write “a lot” or “all the time” is a little ambiguous.
But I am not writing this much to hit one million words.
I am going to hit one million words because that’s how much I am writing.
I would write either way.
(And if my “one million words” tagline was actually accurate, it would probably say something more like “one million, two hundred thousand words” – 1,200,000 – because that is more like what it will be, given what my word count has become.)
And if somebody came to me and said, “hey, it’s not ‘novel writing year,’ you know – and that would be stupid, if it was. You should stop writing before you start to hate it.”
I would say, “no. How about instead, let’s say that I will not stop writing, because I don’t hate it.” (And sorry you do. But don’t make your issue mine.)
Because maybe it isn’t “novel writing year” for you, but for me it is. And if the time should come where I start to hate it – if I injure myself or get burned out – then I will stop. But until then, don’t tell me I will be unhappy if I shoot for the Leadville 100 just because you hated running a marathon.
It does make me happy.
Despite “whatthefuckever” you say.